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 Gail Ehlich, of Harrison Township, stands at the Harrison Township Public Library open house June 27. She is a longtime patron of the library.

Gail Ehlich, of Harrison Township, stands at the Harrison Township Public Library open house June 27. She is a longtime patron of the library.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Voters to decide on 10-year Harrison Township Library millage

Technology, resources, hours and programs would be affected

By: Nick Mordowanec | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published July 1, 2020

 Library Director Melissa Goins speaks to attendees.

Library Director Melissa Goins speaks to attendees.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — On Aug. 4, Harrison Township residents will decide to approve or reject a Harrison Township Public Library millage.

The proposal is 1 mill for a period of 10 years. If approved, the millage would replace the existing 0.5 mills that are set to expire in 2023.

Based on the average township home price of $240,000 and $120,000 in taxable value, monthly cost would increase from $5 to $10 per month, or a total yearly cost of $120.

The Harrison Township Public Library is run by Director Melissa Goins, one of 14 paid employees but the only full-time employee at the library. Goins makes about $63,000 per year.

The three part-time librarians with master’s degrees make between $19 and $21 per hour, working approximately 15-20 hours per week. They also have other part-time jobs. Clerks make $10.50 per hour.

Most of the employees, including Goins, previously volunteered when the library was open three days per week, between 2008 and when funds were collected in 2015 after a successful 2014 millage. The library celebrated 10 years of being open in October 2019.

“HTPL spends 37% of its budget on staffing, which is well below the state average of 63%,” Goins said. “We will spend more on staffing if the millage passes because we will be open for more hours and will need staff for those extra hours.”

Goins said the current library model is not sustainable and was never intended to be the final stage of development. HTPL, even though it is the fourth-largest Class IV library in the state, is below average when compared with the other 78 Class IV libraries in Michigan.

Class IV libraries are described as libraries that serve municipal populations between 12,000 and 25,999 people. Based on the 2010 census, Harrison Township’s population is 24,587 — a number Goins expects to increase after 2020 census results are finalized.

Averages in Class IV libraries are 25 public computers, about 16,660 square feet of space, about $41.04 operating income per person served, 56 hours of operation per week and a total collection size of 109,208 items — or 6.74 items in collection per person.

HTPL has five public computers, 3,900 square feet, about $19.16 operating income per person served, 44 hours of operation per week and a total collection size of 38,877 items — or 1.58 items in collection per person.

“We don’t want to be big, don’t want to be huge, don’t want to be top of the line,” Goins said. “We just want to be average. I think the residents of Harrison Township deserve more than average.”

If successful, monies from the millage will go toward different arenas.

One is technology, where $40,000 in upgrades will include faster internet, new public desktop and laptop computers, and better Wi-Fi and cell service. Goins said only staff computers were updated in 2018, while six staff members’ computers — including Goins — were last updated in 2015. Most technology is older than 2015.

One of the biggest complaints, Goins said, is business hours. A successful millage would boost open hours by 13%, increasing to about 50 hours per week.

The program budget would also be doubled. In 2019, 278 programs were utilized by children, adults and seniors. Through May, that number was at 64 and inevitably reduced due to COVID-19.

The electronic resources budget — which Goins said is the second biggest complaint from library patrons, behind hours — will be doubled. It will result in fewer wait times for e-books and audiobooks, and also provide students with online tutoring and resume programs.

Digital copies are finite and cost more for library systems to purchase when compared with individual rates, due to their being shared. In 2019, a total of 50,348 items were physically checked out and 18,649 items were digitally checked out.

A bank of about 20 outdoor lockers would also be constructed outside the library. Patrons would request materials and will be digitally notified with a locker number and combination, so they can pick up their materials any day or any time at their convenience.

Waving fine fees is also important to Goins, who referred to cities like Mount Clemens among others in Macomb County that have done the same. She said fees, which cost 20 cents per day and make up less than 1% of the budget, increase negative experiences for patrons and staffers while making things more difficult for seniors and children.

“It’s just a way to remove barriers so everyone can use library resources,” Goins said. “Many times, when people are fined, they don’t come back to the library. … The reality is that it’s building walls and keeping people from coming back, in a time when every penny counts.”

Another aspect of a successful millage may involve future expansion. Goins said the library is likely five years away from moving into a bigger space, which is only if 1 mill is approved.

“The whole point of the millage is that we’re ready to move to the next level,” she said. “We still operate as a small start-up library. It’s putting the question to the residents to ask if the community is ready to do more and be more.”

For more information, visit htlibrary.org/library-millage-proposal.

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